The proposed development of Hampton Park II and concern over the impact on both the existing estate and on the character of Ford continues to dominate the headlines.
I have been actively engaged on this issue since 2010, asking questions in Westminster, meeting with the developers, Wiltshire Council and local stakeholders.
I know that many people were dismayed when the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, apparently gave the development his seal of approval.
The housing allocation for this area was built into the regional housing targets a long time ago and, although many continue to dispute them, they cannot be easily undone according to the legal advice received by the government department.
If the developers appealed against refusal, they would likely win. I was told by a number of colleagues at the time that my persistent probing on this issue made me quite a thorn in the side of the government and I should wind my neck in.
I did no such thing, but I can only assume that my doggedness succeeded in winning some esteem because the most recent reshuffle saw me appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Eric Pickles.
But, unfortunately, contrary to the impression that may have been left in last week’s Journal front page article, this does not give me any new leverage over the outcome.
Wiltshire Council’s reluctance to pursue the last resort of a costly Judicial Review also seems to be based on the independent legal advice it has received that such a review would fail. I do not support the development as per the current plans and I have not given up.
Cllr Ian McLennan has put a great deal of effort into “thinking outside the box” to come up with ways to alter the plans.
I am working very closely with him and with Cllr Bill Moss and a meeting will take place with Barratts imminently in my office to explore how to move beyond a simple “yes” or “no”
towards refinements to scale and design of the new homes and layout to address local concerns.